The NYC Teaching Fellows is an alternative certification program that was founded in 2000 in response to the largest teacher shortage the NYC Department of Education has faced in recent decades. Designed as a collaboration between The New Teacher Project (TNTP) and the New York City Board of Education, the program's goal is to raise the quality of education in New York City public schools by attracting professionals from other fields into the classroom as teachers. Many accepted Fellows have almost no teaching experience, and accepted Fellows include recent college graduates as well as former accountants, nurses, chief executives, secretaries, artists, journalists, and retirees.
Originally, the NYC Teaching Fellows program replaced an earlier program where uncertified individuals were hired to teach in high-need New York City public schools, but this was abolished after the No Child Left Behind legislation required all teachers to be certified.
Certified teachers are encouraged to apply to Teach NYC, which is another teacher recruitment program in New York City. The Teaching Fellows program is advertised in college career placement offices, on the Internet, and in a series of famous ads on the New York City subway.
Fellows receive a modest living stipend during training. Since the stipend is often less than two months' living expenses in the city, many Fellows take out loans, work another job, or spend savings in order to get through the summer.
While teaching, Fellows work towards a Master's degree in education. The degree is subsidized by the NYC Department of Education, and Fellows are currently responsible for $6,600 of their tuition, which is automatically deducted from their paychecks. The Master's degree must be completed within three years, although many Fellows complete the program in two. Teacher salaries increase after the completion of 30 credits beyond the Bachelor's degree and after the receipt of a Master's degree.
Fellows are also eligible for AmeriCorps education grants, totaling $4,750 for one year of their service. If they continue to teach in high-need schools, they may also be eligible for other federal loan forgiveness programs, including Stafford and Perkins loans.
While university partners change year to year, in the past, Fellows have been assigned to study at one of eleven participating NYC universities: Brooklyn College, City College of New York, Empire State University, Fordham University, Hunter College, Lehman College, Long Island University, Mercy College, Queens College, Pace University, and St. John's University. Fellows are assigned to universities based on their subject area and borough assignment -- a Fellow does not choose which university they will attend. At the beginning of pre-service training, Fellows may be required to complete an application for admission to the assigned graduate program.
Summer pre-service training includes university coursework, a "Student Achievement Framework" session with an advisor (a veteran Fellow who has completed the program), content-specific workshops, mandatory certification workshops, and a student-teaching/fieldwork component completed in an assigned summer school in their borough.
In 2002, the Teaching Fellows began a Math Immersion program to help prepare people without math degrees to be math teachers; a Science Immersion program was later added. The majority of math Fellows attend a session of Math Immersion training that takes place during the two weeks prior to regular pre-service training. The science immersion fellows follow a similar course, with earth science as their primary mode of study. This additional training session covers the basic content of the CST and high school curriculum in their assigned subject area. Immersion Fellows in the June program receive an additional stipend for their time. In 2007, it was $1,000.
Fellows must continue to take courses towards their Master's degree throughout the next two to three years, although they generally only take a course or two every semester. Unfortunately, some Fellows have reported that their Master's programs are not as challenging as they would expect. On the other hand, many Fellows report satisfaction with City College's faculty who emphasize practical, hands-on teaching methods.
The requirements for applying for this Transitional B license may vary by university, but they generally include:
In addition, people with Transitional B licenses are guaranteed mentorship throughout their first year of teaching. Starting with the 2007-2008 school year, each school is responsible for providing mentors for first-year teachers so mentoring models look different at each school.
Within three years of receiving a Transitional B license, a teacher must apply for an Initial Certificate, which is the certificate a person who has a degree in education would receive. After receiving the Initial Certificate, a Teaching Fellow is qualified to teach anywhere in New York State, as they now hold a standard, rather than an alternative, certification. At the completion of their Master's degree and three years of satisfactory teaching, they may apply for a Professional Teaching Certificate, which is good indefinitely, as long as one completes 175 hours of professional development every five years.
Teaching Fellows who enrolled prior to 2004 were certified through a slightly different process.
NYCTF is dedicated to recruiting teachers that will work in the hardest-to-staff schools (typically those receiving Title I funding) and teach high-need subject areas including bilingual education, English, ESL, math, science, Spanish, and special education. While a Fellow may accept a position at any NYC public school, Fellows are encouraged to keep the mission of the Fellowship in mind when looking for jobs. Most Teaching Fellows end up working in the Bronx or Brooklyn, but Fellows also work in Queens and Manhattan. (NYCTF no longer assigns teachers to Staten Island.)
The difficulty of finding a job varies from year to year. In 2006, teacher hiring was delayed by new contract provisions. Incumbent teachers enjoyed increased freedom through the start of August in switching schools. Because of this freedom, Fellows as well as other new teachers were competing for vacancies with more senior candidates and principals had more options in staffing their schools. Ten percent of Fellows, along with other teachers with commitments from the NYCDOE were placed in their region's Absent Teacher Reserve pool (ATR) and assigned to schools in their regions as designated substitutes. While in the ATR, Fellows received a full teacher's salary and benefits until December 1, 2006, by which point they were expected to find a permanent position.
However, many view the Teaching Fellows as a "trial by fire" for new teachers, remembering the classic line from the song "New York, New York": "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." Since this line is often true, New York state counties and areas outside of NYC are impressed by the successful Fellow, and former Fellows often easily find a teaching job in a middle or upper middle-class New York suburb after completing the contractual obligations and licensing requirements. Unfortunately, since the program attempts to fill the teaching shortage in New York City, where teacher turnover is one of the biggest problems, doing this runs counter to the goals of the Fellows program. At the same time the inordinate amount of stress catches many Fellows off-guard, bringing on an early burnout in the form of a rude awakening.
Overall, the Teaching Fellows program has successfully filled the teaching shortage in New York City. Due largely to their success, NYC public schools opened without many math vacancies, which is unheard of for a major urban school system. There is some hope that Science Immersion will be as successful. Currently, 8,000 active Fellows account for approximately 11 percent of all active teachers citywide, including one-fourth of all math teachers. The program boasts of strong retention that exceeds the national average for all teachers.